I can start with that I think it was great the project got funded by the state. The City of El Paso has been notoriously bad a securing funding from state sources. And that isn't just because we've had notoriously bad representation at the state level either. Inept appeals for the money have been followed by inept management of the projects. It's pretty obvious why TxDOT didn't want the city to manage the trolley project - making it a condition for the funding that some other entity sit in the driver's seat.
I think these trolleys are just sexy buses... for a time. Later they will be just like buses. Their basic function is to move people from place to place - just like a bus. However unique the design is, it will eventually wear off. Mass transit operated by the government always goes to hell. They will be dirty, broken and thus chariots of the folks who can't afford an alternative. Taxpayers will be asked to pick up the tab when it can pay for itself.
Some El Pasoans with means will ride the trolleys at first as a novelty. The novelty will wear off when the realities of mass transit set in = dirty, broke and unreliable. There is no parking advantage on either side of the route, so it doesn't offer much convenience. Why wait ten minutes for a trolley and then take 20 minute ride when you can drive there in two minutes? It offers nothing to consumers that they don't already have... other than the novelty of riding on a sexy bus.
As for the real estate along the route... don't kid yourself. This thing originates from downtown. It's going to carry Mexican shoppers to bigger and better versions of what they have downtown. I see your different versions of the dollar store popping up along with your payday loan type places. I see cheap cell phone dealers hawking no contract throwaway phones. I see a place where the usual suspects in real estate already own the property and are going to apply their usual model to the route - stores aimed at Mexican day shoppers who are on foot.
You will not have fancy restaurants. You will not have high-end stores. El Paso's economy doesn't support those type establishments now and adding a few sexy buses to the mix won't change that. I was absolutely shocked at the empty restaurant spaces on the west side when I was in town last. Nothing nice survives. The trolley can't fix this.
Sure, there will be a few bars. However, with easy access for Ft. Bliss soldiers, it will quickly turn into a nightly riot just down the street from the other nightly riot (Cincinnati). I'm not knocking our fighting men (women are not the problem). It's a scientific fact that when you get a bunch guys under the age of 25 drinking alcohol in the same area - they're going to start punching each other. Colleges offer the same problem with young males.
Also, once you get a bunch of drunks riding the trolley from bar to bar - you'll lose the regular public quickly. Nobody wants to be next to a bunch of raging drunk dudes on their way to the ballpark - especially if their kids are with them.
Ultimately, I don't see how these sexy buses will change anything. It's not like places on the east coast where underground train service completely changed entire cities. People already have easy access to the area. Access isn't the issue. Really there isn't much of an issue here at all. You've got some big kids wanting to play with a big train set and they are doing it with your money.
Taxpayers will subsidize this like they do with all mass transit. Another brick in the tax wall. Promises will be made - "we need the money to clean up the cars so rich people will want to ride them" - and they'll have them cleaned up for a week and then they'll be trashed again. Just look at the Airport - their new bathrooms weren't open a couple days when they were completely trashed... same goes with parks that have bathrooms. You can't have anything nice in El Paso. Don't spend the money to learn the same lesson again and again.
The good news is that only PR agency in town will have something other than the star on the mountain to put on their useless El Paso promotional materials. They'll have a picture of a shiny new trolley! Tourists will laugh when they realize it goes one mile - from dollar store to dollar store.
What would have made better sense was a street level train that goes between UMC and UTEP with a stop downtown. Cater to the medical folks who go between during the day. The future is health care - start focusing on that now.